The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer

In the group “Sales Enablement Gurus” on LinkedIn.com Tamara Schenk (@tamaraschenk) (Portfolio & Offering Management – Innovation Center; T-Systems International GmbH) left the following comment on a discussion called “Sales enablement platforms – needs and benefits”, which is the name of a blog post that can be found at the BizSphere blog, my blog and the original source – the Solution for Sales blog:

“The sales cycle can be viewed as a series of interactions or conversations with the customer.” Right! If we remember a holistic sales enablement approach we should be able to equip all our client facing people with the right set of resources that they are able to have valuable conversations with the customers at each stage of their problem solving process (also see Forrester Research’s sales enablement definition).

What does it mean for content producing people in Marketing and Portfolio & Offering management and as well for the sales enablement platforms as a content and knowledge management foundation?
Content needs to become well structured, re-usable and easy to be customized, definitions of internal and external resources or content types are a prerequisite, too. Not only one or two slide decks for sales are necessary. First you should have content according to the sales cycle respectively to the customers problem solving process. Second resources for different audiences are required, e.g. for C-level, for workshops, for second and third meetings.
Third, to deliver all these resources, a certain degree of structure, re-useability and customizing of sales content is required.
For sales enablement platforms it means a lot of flexibility regarding taxonomies, relationships, collaboration features and e.g. features regarding content structures, re-useability, generating content automatically.

And last but not least a lot of sales resources are focused on the vendors company and portfolio structure, but where’s the customer? Sales resources without specific business value for the customer are not really helpful, the customer will alway ask “so what, what’s in for me?” Being aware of delivering business outcomes instead of products or solutions will be key for success.

In the long run vendors who are able to address business outcomes instead of product features, who are able to create a shared vision with an interesting business case will win the deals.”

No Respect for Collateral

Thanks to Kathleen Schaub (@kathleenschaub) for allowing me to re-post her blog post ‘No Respect for Collateral’ from April 21, 2010. On April 28, 2010.

“In the 1986 classic film, Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield plays a self-made millionaire who attempts to earn a college degree by leveraging the skills that made him a business success. For instance, he outsources term papers to subject-matter experts, then evaluates their work by weight. “I dunno,” Dangerfield mutters as he hefts a stack of paper, “It feels like a ‘C’.” We laugh, because we know that you don’t judge content by volume, unless you are trying to be funny.

Yet, according to the American Marketing Association, as much as 80-90% of collateral plays no useful role in the selling process. No one laughs at that.

Companies produce a huge volume of digital and print marketing collateral. We can get seduced into believing that because we have so many communications pieces, we’ve really communicated. Consider a new product go-to-market plan. It’s often largely a checklist of collateral items. Business presentation? Check. Technology presentation? Check. White paper? Check. Website update? Check. Sales training material? Check. YouTube demo? Check. Twitter hashtag? Check. The list may go on for pages.

Measurement is good. But measuring launch preparedness by the volume of collateral is like using a scale to measure the temperature. Instead, we should measure the completeness of our ability to answer our future buyer’s critical questions.

Each buyer’s journey is a cognitive path leading from unawareness to enlightenment and agreement. The steps on a buyer’s journey are questions. For a B2B technology purchase, I estimate that there are about 25 critical questions that a buyer needs answered before he will buy. Early in this cognitive journey, he asks questions like, “how can I be better?” and “am I headed for a problem?”. In the middle of the journey, questions such as “what vendors offer possible solutions?” and “have companies like us been successful at actually realizing promised benefits?” Near the journey’s end are questions such as “why should I buy now?” and “what are this vendor’s terms?”

A company’s marketing communications materials are supposed to answer these questions. Our answers must help remove cognitive roadblocks so that the buyer can keep moving towards a purchase.

Technology companies typically answer, maybe, eight out the 25 questions. These same eight questions get answered over and over again in different media. The volume and range of communications materials tricks us into thinking our job is done. Meanwhile, the rest of the buyer’s path, containing his other 17 questions, remains dark and murky. All it takes is one key question inadequately answered to derail a sale.

I’m definitely a fan of interesting, creative, marketing communications. Brain-friendly content that is made to stick improves message transmission and comprehension. If we first measure how completely we are answering our buyer’s key questions, and then apply our communications ingenuity, we will truly have a winning collateral strategy.

Otherwise, if 17 out of a buyer’s 25 critical questions remain unanswered, we will find our sales people discarding our kilos of award-winning brochures, clever podcasts, and stunning community websites for a home-made Powerpoint deck that does the job they really need.”

How to Achieve Sales Enablement with Buyer Personas

Know Your Customers - Buyer Persona InsightI’m honored to have Tony Zambito (@TonyZambito) from GoalCentric.com as a guest blogger with a post he wrote as a response to my tweeted call for guest bloggers for this blog. He is an expert on creating buyer personas. Check out his blog BuyerPersonaInsights.com where he currently runs a series called ‘The 10 Rules for Creating a Buyer Persona’.

How to Achieve Sales Enablement with Buyer Personas
“Enabling a sales force is no easy feat. Especially when there may be hundreds or even thousands of sales personnel spread out through various locations around the globe and working remotely. Aligning selling efforts with marketing efforts can become the albatross around any organization’s efforts to connect with its’ buyers.

Fortunately, technology in sales enablement is making it easier for companies to enable a sales force in their ability to win business. Sales enablement technology is an enabler of assisting sales to communicate and progress the sales cycle along. One thing technology cannot do though is have the conversation with customers and buyers for the sales representative. When companies can align technology, marketing initiatives and sales conversations it can attain a distinct competitive edge. Assuring that sales can connect with buyers conversationally is the most challenging aspect of sales enablement. This is where buyer personas can make the difference.
A buyer persona is a qualitative research derived archetype of a buyer that models their goals and provides deep insight into how they move along the buying process. They are not to be confused with customer profiles that have been common to sales and now in some instances you find the buyer persona label being attached to customer profiling.

An example of a Goal Centric client may help:

A Fortune 100 client faced a dilemma of reaching a new segment of buyers. They knew that if they could not enable the sales force to deeply understand buyers as well as to be able to engage conversationally, they would stand little chance of succeeding. They embarked on a buyer persona development initiative in two stages. The first stage was to conduct qualitative interviewing into this new segment of buyers. Over a three months period, significant and previously unknown insight was gained about this new buyer segment. These insights helped senior sales and marketing executives to strategically plan the best go-to-market efforts that would give them a winning edge over competitors. The insights were then translated into crafted buyer personas that reflected conversationally how to talk about the issues and goals of the buyer throughout the buying process. The second stage was aligning marketing communications with the anticipated selling conversations that enabled the ability of sales to help buyers reach their goals. Sales representatives were trained and received guided resources that helped them to have engaging conversations with buyers. They were enabled to demonstrate their ability to understand buyer goals in their language and terminology. Senior executives were able to achieve an increase in revenues in this new buyer segment by nearly 15% in the first year of rolling out buyer personas as a guided resource.
What can we learn through this example about how to achieve sales enablement with buyer personas?

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Gain executive sponsorship to engage in the process of acquiring deep insights into your buyers
  • Embed buyer personas and the qualitative insights into strategic planning for sales and marketing
  • Buyer personas are derived and crafted from qualitative interviews and a specific methodology focused on goals and are not to be confused with profiles
  • Important to align marketing with the new found insights into buyers so they can provide the necessary sales enablement resources that sales representatives will actually use
  • Invest in adequate training to acquaint sales with the conversational aspect of using buyer personas to engage with their buyers

 

In the end, sales enablement is a process that ends either face-to-face or through the phone when that critical moment of truth happens – the conversation with the buyer. Buyer personas can go a long way towards ensuring that sales are enabled and ready right at that moment.”

Buyer Enablement

On February 4, 2010, @3forward blogged the following (this URL does not exist anymore: 3forward.com/sales-leaders-blog/sales-2-0-may-put-you-out-of-business/)

“[…] recently hosted a brainstorming coffee meeting with a couple business owners considering dipping their toes into […] weekly blogging, modest social networking and establishing an entry level in-bound lead generation programs.  They could clearly envision the potential benefits once things were up and functioning, but still were not ready to pull the trigger on this overhaul to the way they have always sold.

Their reasons for delay were the same objections many others have when considering these new tools and new model for selling.  Those being: time to learn both what to do and how to do it; concern they won’t have enough value-added content to make it work and the lack of internal resources to launch and manage the new operation.

What I’m afraid may not have sunk in during our talk is that not participating in this new customer engagement and acquisition model is conceding to a guaranteed demise. That some industries and segments are not as far along as others is the only thing saving some of these companies who fail to recognize or admit to what’s happening in the marketing and sales world.

Bottom line: the time is fast coming when you won’t be able to hire enough reps, make enough cold calls or push enough brochure-ware to keep your revenues above the breaking point.   As more and more buyers (business, consumer, small, large, etc.) move to ‘Buying Process 2.0’ every industry will eventually reach the stage where those suppliers not active, participating and engaged in the new marketplace will become irrelevant.

For more on what’s changing and the impact it’s having, here are a couple excellent blog posts by some other leaders in this movement that we follow.

Could Sales 2.0 Turn Your Company Into a Victim of Change?

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing No Longer Apply

 

Get the sales and marketing organization to have a common understanding where a buyer is on their journey

On March 9, 2010, Christian A. Maurer (@camaurer) posted ‘Sales Process’ Is In The Air at his blog ultimatesalesexecresource.blogspot.com:

“There is a lot being written about the sales process these days […]

Why now?

I think we are seeing signs of a perfect storm forcing us to rethink professional selling:

  • Despite massive investments for many years in CRM systems, in the design and implementation of sales processes, in training initiative on sales methodologies and selling skills for , sales performance is probably at its lowest since CSO Insights started tracking it some 15 years ago?
  • Current economic conditions do no longer allow us to continue with such investments even though they seem to be needed more than ever.
  • Web 2.0 has shifted the negotiation power clearly in favor of the buyer.
  • Marketing makes claims to be more involved in the revenue gen process wanting to manage and qualified leads when they are ‘ready to buy’.
  • There is an ever growing number of tools under the Sales 2.0 acronym suggesting they can improve sales performance.

Some new thinking to weather the storm

The customer’s buying journey has to be taken as a given. With the model of looking at the complex buying journey as a change management process I have helped my customers to get a lot of clarity. The focus is thereby not so much on the activities the buyer undertakes, but the intermediate decisions taken to finally arrive at the buying decision. The journey though does not end there. We should not ignore that the buyer then will also decide whether the value promised with the purchase was also delivered. As was pointed out in a recent article in the McKinsey Quarterly, this notion will be essential how the buyer’s journey will look the next time it is started by a trigger.

It is probably also save to assume that increasing sales performance will need tighter collaboration between sales and marketing. Talking about a sales process alone will therefore be of little help. As we see the term Chief Revenue Officer emerge for the person who oversees this collaborative working of sales and marketing to generate revenue streams, the term Revenue Generation Process might help us to define what we will need instead.

What do we want the Revenue Generation Process to do?

There will be a lot of debate on the purpose as there is with the sales process.

Attempts to make it a recipe book, prescribing the activities sales and marketing have to undertake for generating revenue, will fail. For me the Revenue Generation Process should do the following:

  • Get the sales and marketing organization to have a common understanding where a buyer is on their journey based on observable reactions from the buyer.
  • Define accountability for sales and marketing along the customers journey.
  • Stimulate forward looking discussions on how best to pursue a lead/opportunity (i.e. next best actions to help the buyer to make the next decision, recycle a stalled or lost opportunity, abandon a lead/opportunity or a buyer)

As a byproduct, such a Revenue Generating Process, will also provide better forecasting and indications where sales and marketing people will need coaching to improve performance.

The role of the sales person in the Revenue Generation Process?

For salespeople to be successful and provide value within this framework, they need to be very versatile. The buyer’s need for help will determine when they will be involved in the process. This might be as early as helping the buyer to identify pain, or starting at helping to formulate a vision how to get remedies for the pain (solution). In other cases, their first buyer contact will be helping validate a solution the buyer has already envisaged on its own or even later helping to hedge cost and risk to find the best vendor. We will also have to accept, that there will be a growing number of situations, where salespeople cannot add value to the buyer and should therefore not be involved at all.

For the involvement of a salesperson to be effective, marketing, already involved in the revenue generating process must though make sure that full access to the information how the buyer has arrived at this point of first contact. Even if marketing is qualifying leads based on observable buyer’s actions (click-through, surf path on web site, social media interactions, webinar attendance, white paper requests etc.) this information must be available to the salespeople so they can provide maximum value at their point of contact with the buyer.

Salespeople, in return, must provide a protocol of all their interactions they have undertaken, in case a lead/opportunity is returned to marketing for recycling or nurturing. Then marketing can decide on the most effective campaigns to help the buyer to come to a point where contact with the salesperson is needed again to continue the buyer’s journey.

Implementing a Revenue Generation Process.

For a successful implementation of such a process including the support by adequate systems, a fundamental mind shift will be needed from all involved. Transparency and accountability must be the norm for such a Revenue Generation Process to produce results. To get to the needed transparency, trust between those involved is required. This is a particular challenge for the leadership up and including the C-Suite. In many cases, this will mean first abandoning old management practices which currently cause reluctance with salespeople in many organizations to share information in the detail needed for a successful implementation of a Revenue Generation Process. […]”

Please leave your comments at the original post.

Social media changes the deal closing process

‘How the social media changes the deal closing process’ by Pat Kitano (@pkitano) from mediatransparent.com, on March 2, 2010.

“The definition of online presence for a business is changing. Until recently, the online mission has been to drive traffic to the website. Search engines, along with specialty destination sites like Craigslist and eBay have been the hubs in the game of connecting two parties to a transaction. Businesses, local and corporate, developed blogs to attract this Google induced traffic. Engagement is logical, linear and direct – search, find, read, buy. An effective web/blog site, often a fast hard pitch, closes the deal.

The social media of course changes the way people search for business opportunity. The social media are essentially a set of  ”cloud” applications where engagement – the meeting of two parties to a transaction – starts with checking each other out through their online profile(s). The protocol of social media engagement is beginning to rule out the fast hard pitch, much to the chagrin of the hard sellers. Even the normal practice of pushing traffic to your web/blog site starts becoming obnoxious to those who find you on the social media but are not yet “in the market”.

Businesses now need to develop two-step online strategy to facilitate the eventual deal close. Opportunities will be increasingly sourced from the “cloud” of social media, particularly as Google and the search engines place more focus on real time search of Twitter (Yahoo/Twitter partnership) and Facebook feeds (Google indexing FB business pages). Once opportunities are identified, that’s when business parties focus on the blogs and websites, even LinkedIn, to study the marketing pitch and confirm the decision to do business.

All that promotional collateral that was once the marketing showcase providing the first interaction with a customer is now being scrutinized towards the end of the transaction decision process. Why? Social media engagement with the customer is becoming the criteria for the deal close. Once that test is passed, a cursory check of the website or blog is just due diligence.

I think this is why businesses are slowly weaning away from daily blog article writing. It’s more important for a business blog or website to be substantive and deliver a confident message that seals the deal. Quality becomes more impressive than quantity.

Besides being busy, this is one reason why I allocate more time developing opportunities on the cloud of social media over blog writing. And when I write a blog article now, I’m making sure it says something.”

 

Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content

On December 14, 2009 Christian Maurer wrote the blog post ‘Using the Buying Process to Provide Contextually Relevant Content’:

“In his post “It is time to think about creating an enterprise context” Matthias Roebel clearly shows that the definition of a stable enterprise context makes information exchange and management more effective. Sharing information is only effective if the shared information can easily be found by others when needed. An enterprise context to me is thus a multidimensional information space, allowing relevant information to be found from various points of view tied to the day in a life scenario of a sales person.

For sales enablement systems, it is of particular importance that the customer view is considered when structuring this information space. As I explained in my last post on this blog (The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in) one of the key customer views to be included is the customer’s buying process.

This recommendation is based on the recognition that Buyer/Seller relationships are changing. By staying with the sales process as the structuring element, these important changes might be missed or discovered too late.

Scott Santucci from Forester research in a recent post confirmed this fact of changing relationships. He writes:

“Buyer/Seller relationships are stratifying right before our eyes into a new caste system of strategic, value-added vendors on the one end and undifferentiated, commodity-type suppliers on the other.”

He suggests a

“…new selling model of actually co-creating value with customers and focusing on helping those customers drive business outcome”.

is needed.

In this post, I want to discuss how using steps in the customer’s buying process as one dimension to structure and access content is key to this new selling model.

What are the major steps in a customer’s buying process?

Activities to be carried out by the customers in the buying process might vary according to the size and type of organization. However the fundamental decisions to be made for advancing in the buying process remain the same. Structuring content according to what decision it actually supports, seems therefore a more robust concept. On a high level, there are 3 fundamental decision points:

The buyer:

  1. has to come to the insight that a status quo is no longer tolerable if the business should prosper and a more detailed investigation is needed.
  2. concludes that the ‘cost of the problem’ outweighs the ‘cost of solutions’ than can be bought
  3. decides to buy from the seller offering the best ‘perceived future in use value’ compared to the to be paid ‘cash value’

There are usually minor decision points in between these major milestones. But for the illustration of how to structure content along the customer’s buying process, the granularity of the 3 major milestones appears to be sufficient.

What contents will help the buyer to reach a decision?

Some people might see a deontological problem by the seller “pushing” the buyer over the first decision point. It is however legitimate for the seller to help the buyer already to come to the conclusion that the frustration with the status quo is no longer tolerable; provided it is done with the right mindset: Helping customers to get better outcomes for their business. What kind of content is then needed to help the customer in a non manipulative way to come to this conclusion?

Geoffrey James’ blog post “Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job” provides some guidance. In there, he cites Neil Rackham’s second rule for sales research being:

“Prospective customers do not value information about products; instead they value information about the industry and the customer’s competition, providing it is current and up-to-date”.

Standard “Corporate Literature” produced by the seller’s organization will thus hardly be what is needed to reach the first milestone in the customer’s buying process. Imagine yourself in the situation trying to assess the importance of a problem and you do not yet know whether you need a solution and if so, whether it could be bought somewhere. Now ask yourself how you would react to a salesperson rattling down a laundry list of features and if you are lucky maybe even a few benefits You would consider the seller’s pitch as being annoying because it is totally irrelevant to the decision you need to make.

Industry or analyst reports creating awareness about the problem the seller can address are a better suiting tactic. This also means that not all contents in Sales Enablement systems are produced by the seller’s organization. Making such reports available in a Sales Enablement system, linked to this early phase of the buying process, reduces the time sales people spend to research for such content and insures that the best suited content for that phase is used.

After reaching the first milestone, the co-creation of value between seller and buyer takes place. In this phase “educational” content, helping the customer to define the specific cost of the pain (e.g. if I do nothing, my sales continue to lag behind those of my strongest competitor by 1M$ per month) and showing how the seller’s solution can address the problem is to be provided (e.g. canned webinars, white papers etc.) The aim of this content is to help the customer to evaluate whether the cost of the pain outweighs the typical investment in a solution to solve the problem.

Considering this milestone is very relevant. Research shows that 20% of forecasted deals end up with ‘no decision’ (i.e. nothing at all is bought). I consider ignoring this second milestone as a root cause for this phenomenon.

This second milestone also allows for the distinction between value-added vendors and commodity type suppliers. The latter typically start their selling process only when the customer has reached the conclusion that solutions providing a positive return compared to the cost of the problem can be bought on the market.

To help the customer with the final selection of the seller with the highest impact on a business outcome, product literature sometimes helps, success stories and ROI calculations are other content to be used.

Conclusion

Using the customer’s buying process as an additional mean to structure the content to be provided within a Sales Enablement systems can be looked at as one of the “manageable projects” Scott Santucci suggests to address the strategic challenges of being successful in the “new caste system”.

References:

It is time to think about creating an enterprise context (Matthias Roebel)

The Need to Understand the Context, B2B Sales People are Operating in (Christian Maurer)

Its been a while why and what’s going on with sales enablement these days (Scott Santucci)

Neil Rackham: Sales is a Research Job (Geoffrey James)”

 

B2B marketing professionals are so focused on execution – they skip the planning stage

November 9, 2009:

“Kathryn Roy, marketing consultant and friend of The B2B Lead, has a great eBook, Seven Infectious Diseases of B2B Marketing — And Their Cures, […] download the entire eBook here.

There are seven problems I find so rampant in B2B companies that I suspect they are infectious – passed along as marketing people switch companies or work with contagious agencies. […] marketing professionals are so focused on execution, they skip the planning stage – and pay the price.

All too often, a glimpse into a B2B marketing department shows a hive of activity focused on meeting deadlines for updating collateral, producing an event, or sending out the next email campaign. In these environments, it is not unusual to find marketers completing projects without having done the analysis that can determine which activities are valuable and which activities not on their list would make a larger contribution.

In some cases, it’s due to a natural tendency to replicate the process and activities from a prior company. Clearly, there is a set of deliverables, like Web sites, that are common to most companies.

However, the relative priority of activities and how they are executed should be based on the dynamics of the target market segment, including the competitive environment.

“Juicing the Orange”, a book by the advertising team that came up with United Airlines’ wildly successful advertising campaign, has a free 15-page workbook (pdf ) with 127 questions to help marketing professionals deeply understand a company’s market and challenge. This analysis is its prerequisite to prescribing messages and mediums for delivery. (Not all 127 questions will necessarily pertain to your situation.)

SYMPTOMS

Inability of marketing professionals to quickly and confidently answer questions such as these:

  • What is the biggest impediment to sales growth today?
  • What are the different market segments you are pursuing and how do they weigh the relative importance of different product/service capabilities?
  • How does your offering compare with competitive alternatives on the key product/service characteristics listed above?
  • Can you describe the buying process and buyer roles and specific concerns by role for your top segment?
  • What is the target segment’s current perception of your company and your competition?

SUSPECTED CAUSES

Measuring output instead of results.

Mismatch between marketing resources and expected deliverables.

TREATMENT

Carve out time and resources to do a thorough analysis. If staff is not experienced, bring in outside help for the initial round.

Build new marketing plan based on the analysis.

About the Author
Kathryn Roy is a marketing and strategy consultant with over 20 years of experience helping some of the most successful and fastest growing B2B companies including IBM, Avid, CA, Lotus, AT&T and dozens of other technology companies.
[…]”

 

Sales Enablement in a nutshell

Sandeep Pandit asked the following question about Sales Enablement on LinkedIn Answers and got the great answers below:

“What are the best practices of Sales Enablement? Also please list down the activities which are required to enable Sales in IT industry.
Sales Enablement is the fine art of enabling Sales function with the tools, knowledge, resources and processes so that Sales community can go and book orders, get the same delivered and subsequently be ready to service it.”

Garry Mansfield:

“[…] Each aspect is focused on providing the customer facing teams with the material to have a real conversation with the target customer. They may be the CEO or a telecoms manager but all of them will likely be involved in the buying decision and will talk. Therefore consistency in the message is key and you should invest time to get this message clear and relevant.

From my experience the materials that helps most are those that give confidence in those conversations; this can come in the form of training, collateral, fact sheets, account planning, deal/opportunity strategy etc. Ultimately the value of what you are offering needs to be expressible in terms that the customer would understand, recognise and be able to act on.

A clear description and information on customers likely issues will help the client facing teams to engage in conversations to understand the customer better. they can then probe further for evidence and supporting facts to build an offer that is more compelling.

Also, a clear articulation of what you do, backed with the SO WHAT? answers and suitable proof points will also help to build credibility with the client.

When I speak with clients and buyers, each of them say the same thing. Broadly there are three stages to the buying process:

  1. you have to help the customer to understand that they have a problem that can be solved. and it is important enough to invest resources in to fix.
  2. you have to help the customer to explore the options available to them in solving the problem and demonstrate why the option you have is best suited to their need.
  3. you have to prove that your organisation is best placed to deliver this option in the competitive marketplace. […]”

Bob Apollo:

“[…] Sales enablement is – as you’ve no doubt concluded – a critical success factor for B2B companies. I’d suggest that there are four key elements that need to be mastered:

  1. Clarity about who your best prospects are and how to recognise them
  2. A deep understanding of the business issues that are likely to cause them to take action
  3. Clear insights into the sources of information they trust when they start researching solutions
  4. A profound appreciation of their decision making process and how and why they choose to buy

In my experience, it is critical that sales and marketing work together in a truly collaborative fashion to develop a common agreement and a common language in each of these areas.

If you can develop a clear picture of the buying decision process that your prospects go through, you’ll be in great shape to create the tools and programs that are going to have the most impact on facilitating the buying process.

You’ll also avoid the huge amount of wasted effort that most companies put into the creation of sales and marketing deliverables that at the end of the day have no impact what so ever the on chances of a prospect buying the solution. […]”

I would like to respond to the discussion above with a slide by BizSphere. It shows how the Sales Enablement approach I have worked with [at a corporation with over 4,000 sales people world-wide] provides a context sales and marketing can collaborate in to equip the customer facing teams, who have to sell very complex portfolios, with the right…

  • core messages;
  • resources;
  • internal contacts;
  • and [cross-selling/up-selling] relationships

…for the right audience at the equally complex client:
complex

resources

Analysis of Days in Sales Cycle Stage and Conversion Rates

Jeff Ernst (@jeffernst) wrote a blog post on a careful analysis of days in each sales cycle stage and conversion rates, on June 3, 2009:

“[…] We took a look at their sales cycles, and found that they were pretty good at getting leads into the top of the funnel, having initial exploratory conversations, and even getting late-stage deals over the goal line.  The choke point was getting folks who had shown interest in their product to convert to sales opportunities.

This type of analysis is not that hard to do. Lee Levitt, the [former] Director of the Sales Advisory Practice at IDC, has long been advocating a careful analysis of Days in Stage and Conversion Rates as a way to target areas for improvement.

So rather than continuing the broad brush approach to sales enablement, we decided to focus on improving that one conversion point.  We looked at what the most frequent objections they were getting in stalled deals, and not surprisingly, it sounded like this:

  • We have no budget
  • Our staff has no time for this right now
  • We’ve got too many other projects in the queue

This told me that we needed to come up with some messaging and tools to allow the sales reps to dig deeper into the “no budget” excuse to the root cause. We needed to arm them with tools to make the prospect realize that they could get started incredibly easily. And we even adjusted the pricing model to reflect the reality of today’s buying environment.

Look for the choke points. Give your reps what they need to improve the dialogue when buyers are going dark.”

From my point of view adjusting the pricing model might be the key.